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Published on Aug 22, 2007
Hardaway's popularity reached its peak in the summer of 1996 as he was coming off two consecutive All-NBA first team selections and a selection to the USA Olympic Team. In addition he had the most popular basketball shoe on the market complete with the "Lil Penny" commercial campaign voiced by Chris Rock. On a 1996 telecast of NBA on NBC Michael Jordan said that Hardaway was the player he felt comfortable passing the torch of greatness down to.
Many NBA players such as LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Hakim Warrick, Rawle Marshall, Trevor Ariza, and Antonio Burks have said that they idolized Hardaway when they were growing up.
Many of the shoes in Hardaway's signature shoe line, "Air Max Penny", have been reissued over the years as a testament to his former popularity. The Nike Air Max Penny Series included Penny I--Penny IV.
Despite being compared to players such as Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson,LeBron James compared himself to a young Penny Hardaway. He stated, "Penny sees the whole floor and can score," LeBron James said. "He's still one of my favorite players of all-time."
"Its good to see Penny back in the league because people who are not aware, this was Wade, this was Lebron, this was Kobe, an absolute superstar, the closest to Magic, a guy his size able to handle the basketball and make plays" - Mark Jackson